Sue Panter, of Whitney, which is southeast of Preston, was attacked by a mule deer buck on Friday while on a walk near her home. Michael Vaughan and 17-year-old daughter Alexis Vaughan, both of Fairview, Idaho, became heros when they rescued Panter from the attack. However, Vaughan did not escape without his own injuries. Both Panter and Vaughan were treated for injuries sustained during the confrontation, including puncture wounds, scratches, and bruises, and were released the same day.
Panter started her morning with what was supposed to be a pleasant walk along a road near her home, enjoying the fall air and taking in the sights and sounds of Whitney’s rural surroundings. With a cornfield-covered landscape all around her, it was no surprise to Panter when two mule deer crossed her path about 100 yards ahead. What was a surprise was the young buck that wandered out of the corn field across the road from her.
At first, the buck simply walked parallel to Panter’s course. But Panter became more and more concerned as the buck quickly closed the distance between them, actually crossing the road and approaching her. She yelled out to discourage the deer, but even a small handful of gravel thrown at the buck did not turn him away.
A fearful Panter bent over to pick up a log she spotted off the side of the road, but before she could even attempt to grasp the object, the deer knocked her to the ground. At that point, the buck began raking her body with his antlers, scratching and digging at her legs and back. Panter played dead, hoping that her lack of response would discourage the deer. But as the deer gored her in the legs three times and pummeled her upper body, Panter knew she had to fight back. She grabbed the deer’s antlers and fought to keep the animal’s head away from her face and neck.
Scott Panter, Sue’s spouse, said that his wife was trying to keep herself in plain sight on the roadway during the struggle. “She felt that if she got pushed off the road and into the cornfield, no one would see her struggling or even know she was there,” said Scott, who was at work when the deer attack occurred.
Luckily for Panter, Michael Vaughan and his 17-year-old daughter, Alexis, both from Fairview, Idaho, drove their Ford Excursion down that same road that morning. It was Alexis who first spotted Panter and the deer struggling. Vaughan said that his daughter yelled that someone was being attacked by a deer. No sooner did Vaughan stop his vehicle, Alexis jumped out, ran to the struggling Panter, and began punching the deer with her fists. Vaughan quickly joined in his daughter’s efforts and was able to grab the deer by the antlers.
Freed from the attacking deer, Panter was able to get herself to Vaughan’s vehicle. However, the deer was now fully engaged with Vaughan. As he wrestled the deer by the antlers, Vaughan yelled to his daughter to grab something from the vehicle with which to hit the deer. Alexis was able to grab a hammer and began striking the deer. Vaughan said that he kept telling his daughter to “keep hitting, keep doing what you are doing.” Finally, the buck stood back and then ran off, but not before the deer had left Michael Vaughan with three puncture wounds on his legs.
Alexis drove both her father and Sue Panter to the emergency room in Preston where both were treated for their injuries and released the same day. According to Scott Panter, his wife is shaken and in shock that this happened. “She has a difficult time even talking about it,” Panter said. “We are all in shock and cannot believe this happened.” When asked about Michael Vaughan and his daughter, Panter got quiet and then said “I am so grateful for the Vaughans. I don’t know how I am going to repay them.”
Michael Vaughan said that he was glad that he and his daughter were at the right place at the right time. “If we hadn’t come up on [Panter] when we did, it could have been so much worse. I don’t think she would have made it.”
Blake Phillips, Regional Conservation Officer for Fish and Game’s southeast region, says that it is not known for certain why this mule deer buck attacked Panter, however behavior like this is typical of deer which have been hand-raised or “tamed” by people. “It is incidents like this that remind us why it is against the law for people to rear wildlife as pets. Animals who have become accustomed or even imprinted on people do not fare well in the wild on their own, and can become nuisances and even dangerous to the public,” says Phillips.
Unprovoked attacks by domesticated or “pet” deer, though very rare, have been reported before in Idaho.
Fish and Game is asking anyone who may have information about this particular deer, including any information about its origins or its current location, to please contact Fish and Game. Korey Owens, Senior Conservation Officer for Fish and Game in Preston, can be reached at 208-251-1923.
Surprisingly, Scott Panter and his wife hold no ill-will toward mule deer in general following this ordeal.
“We live in their territory, in their home,” he says. “An incident like this is so rare. But if this is all because someone raised a deer as a pet, then let this be an example of why no one should tame wildlife.”